June 15, 2003
This is the prologue to the book The Bullet or the Bribe: Taking Down Colombia's Cali Drug Cartel by Ron Chepesiuk, the story of the rise of the powerful Cali Cartel and the long and often frustrating campaign that U.S. and international law enforcement waged to take it down. The book details the cartel's rise to international prominence and the lifestyles of its godfathers, its efforts to buy Colombia, its death struggle with legendary Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, its brilliant strategy to portray itself as the kinder, gentler drug cartel from Colombia, and the mistakes that ultimately led to the crumbling of its well-oiled organization. The book will be published by Praeger, a member of the Greenwood Publishing Group, in the fall of 2003.
by Ron Chepesiuk
"It's similar to, maybe, baking a cake."
— David Karasiewski, Forensic Chemist, DEA
The call that launched the biggest drug trafficking investigation in New York State Police (NYSP) history came on April 12, 1985. Bob Sears, a DEA agent in the Albany office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), groped for the switch on the bed lamp and squinted at the alarm clock on the end table. It was a little past 2 a.m. Sears fumbled with the phone and blurted: "This better be important."
The caller was Ken Cook, a friend for years, but Cook was also an investigator assigned to the Major Crime Units of Troop Six, NYSP, and he had worked with Sears on many joint investigations. This was no social call.
"There has been an explosion at a farm house in Minden," Cook explained. "We don´t know what happened. It could be a bomb factory...a meth lab. Barrels of chemicals are all over the place. It´s a mess. Maybe the DEA needs to go out and take a look." 1
Sears yawned and rubbed his warm bed. He had a better idea. "Come on, Ken, it´s almost morning. Can´t we sleep on it ´til tomorrow?" 2
But Cook persisted. "No, we need to go out there tonight while the scene is still hot." Sears knew well what Cook meant. Often, he would go out to a crime scene only to find that some young cop fresh out of the academy had left his hoof and paw prints all over the place. 3